It’s a cold, overcast day in Donna, a Texas border town of almost 16,000 people. It’s a stone’s-throw from the international bridge connecting Donna with the town Rio Bravo in Tamaulipas, Mexico.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Richard G. Kerlikowske is welcoming news outlets to a new $3.8 million immigration holding facility.
When President Donald Trump signed his executive action on immigration this week – much of the focus was on the border wall. But the same document talks about new detention facilities. It says Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly should allocate resources to immediately construct facilities to detain “aliens” at or near the Mexican border.
The fastest and cheapest way to do that is to build tent-like structures like the one Kerlikowske is christening in Donna.
This is the part of the border that saw a big influx of families and unaccompanied children in 2014 – most from Central America. About 50,000 unaccompanied minors and another 50,000 families crossed the border here. Immigration officials say they had a hard time keeping up.
“We did not have really adequate facilities,” Kerlikowske says. “We didn’t have provisions for healthcare. We didn’t really even have provisions for food.”